Canada judge: forcing court attendees to remove religious attire against principles of Canadian law
Canada judge: forcing court attendees to remove religious attire against principles of Canadian law

A Canadian Superior Court [official website] justice has ruled that a decision to deny a woman’s case in court because she refused to remove her hijab goes against the fundamental principles of Canadian law. Rania El-Alloul was told last year that her case regarding automobile insurance would not go forward [National Post report] so long as she was wearing her hijab. As she refused to remove her hijab, her case was postponed. The judge claimed that the courtroom is a secular space where religious beliefs hold no weight. The Superior Court rejected this claim [CBC News report] stating that the Canadian Supreme Court has continuously ruled against that notion. El-Alloul’s lawyers have since been requesting a legal opinion that would clarify the rights of those within Quebec who seek to wear religious attire, claiming that El-Alloul’s treatment violated her right to religious freedom. While the Superior Court Justice sympathized with Alloul and regretted her treatment, he would not go so far as to rule [CP report] that women will be able to wear hijabs at future court appearances. The justice ultimately found that “each case must be evaluated in light of the context that exists during the witness’s appearance.”

Burqas and other symbols of Islam have been a controversial subject. In 2013 a Quebec official proposed a bill [JURIST report] banning religious headwear for public workers. Belgium officially banned [JURIST report] burqas in July 2011. France’s ban on burqas took effect [JURIST report] in April 2011. Swiss voters approved a proposal to ban the construction of minarets [JURIST report] in November 2009, and the vote was subsequently upheld [JURIST report] in the European Court of Human Rights in July 2011. Some commentators have suggested that the rationales behind the European burqa bans are weak [JURIST op-ed] and that the true purpose of the bills is societal discomfort.